EXCLUSIVE

Gov. Haley’s first campaign ads tout economic recovery

ashain@thestate.comApril 21, 2014 

The early push to spread Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election message continues this week with her campaign’s first TV ads, coming on the heels of yet another TV spot paid for by the Republican Governors Association that attacks her Democratic challenger, Vincent Sheheen.

The Haley campaign ads — airing seven months before the November election — tout the state’s economic recovery during her first term, according to copies of the two spots obtained by The State. The spots debut Wednesday in major TV markets statewide.

Haley stars in one ad, walking through a factory while saying, “When I came into office, our state was hurting. Fixing our economy was my No. 1 job. ... There’s still more to do, but South Carolina is on the move.”

The other Haley campaign spot features business leaders praising the governor. “By any measure, Gov. Haley has really set a new standard for economic development and job creation,” BB&T S.C. regional president Mike Brenan says in the ad.

Brenan, a former S.C. Chamber of Commerce chairman, is Haley’s appointee to the S.C. Board of Education.

“We’re proud of the governor’s record, and we’re excited to begin telling that story,” Haley campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey said Monday.

Neither the Sheheen campaign nor the Democratic Governors Association have aired television ads since he announced a second bid for governor a year ago. They would not discuss any ad plans Monday. Sheheen, a state senator from Camden, lost to Haley, then a state representative from Lexington, by 4.5 percentage points in 2010.

In the past year, the Movement Fund, a pro-Haley political group, and the Republican Governors Association have paid for ads backing Haley, 42. Haley’s campaign re-election effort had $4.3 million on hand at the end of March, according to state ethics filings.

The Republican Governors Association debuted its new ad over the weekend, attacking Sheheen, an attorney, for his legal work representing defendants in child-abuse and domestic-violence cases.

“So next time Sheheen says he’ll protect women from violent criminals, ask him: What about the ones who paid him?” a narrator says. “Vincent Sheheen protects criminals. Not us.”

Sheheen, 42, has said he handles a small number of criminal cases. Most of his work is civil. Many of the cases cited by opponents are more than a decade old.

“As a former prosecutor, Vincent has seen what families and victims go through, and he has worked with law enforcement to hold criminals accountable and achieve justice,” Sheheen campaign manager Andrew Whalen said Monday.

The Republican Governors Association has aired four anti-Sheheen ads in the past seven weeks at a reported cost of about $400,000.

The group’s other ads have focused on Sheheen’s support for taking the first three years of Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act, which would come at no cost to the state. Haley, who sits on the Republican Governors Association’s executive committee, rejected the expansion.

Sheheen’s campaign has less money in the bank than Haley, with $1.7 million. Haley’s money advantage is one her camp is trying to press.

Republicans want to discourage national Democratic groups and donors from helping Sheheen, convincing those groups to spend their money elsewhere in other races — holding control of the U.S. Senate, for example, Citadel political scientist Scott Buchanan said.

“Democrats are facing tough races nationwide,” he said. “They have got to be careful where they spend.”

Meanwhile on Monday, Tom Ervin, a Republican running as a petition candidate for governor, introduced his first campaign TV advertisement, taking aim at Haley for the massive 2012 Revenue Department data breach and for questions surrounding the management of the state’s child welfare agency.

“It’s time for a governor with some guts to tell the truth to the people,” Ervin says in the ad, which does not address Haley by name. “I want to be the governor that puts South Carolina first, and leave the national politics and games to the others.”

Ervin’s campaign said the spot was produced by Republican media strategist Mike Hudome, who made ads for U.S. Sen. John McCain’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign. Ervin’s ad will run for three weeks in TV markets statewide, a campaign spokeswoman said. Ervin, a 62-year-old former Greenville state lawmaker and judge, already has aired radio spots introducing himself to voters. He dropped out of the June GOP primary earlier this month, saying running as a petition candidate in November would give him more time to campaign.

Ervin, who joined the race late last month, has loaned his campaign $420,181 but not received any outside contributions, according to state records.

Pundits give Ervin little chance. “I don’t see him being the Ross Perot of the S.C. gubernatorial campaign,” Buchanan said of the Texas mogul who played spoiler in the 1992 presidential election.

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